An Iran Quiz

Via Juan Cole, this Iran Quiz by Jeffrey Rudolph is a counterpoint to the pro-attack narrative for a broad (US) audience but it’s worth a spin wherever you are. As our leaders use Iran as a prop to measure their military and foreign policy election race  particulars it is relevant here -what Washington wants Washington gets- and anyway our ruling class has form when it comes to Persia. I have rejigged the original format so each answer appears after the question, however to maintain a challenging air of mystery the answers are in white, so to see them you have to highlight the text (anyone remember the teletext reveal button?). So, just a bit of fun as they say

Iran Quiz by Jeffrey Rudolph

What can possibly justify the relentless U.S. diplomatic (and mainstream media) assault on Iran ?

It cannot be argued that Iran is an aggressive state that is dangerous to its neighbors, as facts do not support this claim. It cannot be relevant that Iran adheres to Islamic fundamentalism, has a flawed democracy and denies women full western-style civil rights, as Saudi Arabia is more fundamentalist, far less democratic and more oppressive of women, yet it is a U.S. ally. It cannot be relevant that Iran has, over the years, had a nuclear research program, and is most likely pursuing the capacity to develop nuclear weapons, as Pakistan, India, Israel and other states are nuclear powers yet remain U.S. allies—indeed, Israel deceived the U.S. while developing its nuclear program.

The answer to the above-posed question is fairly obvious: Iran must be punished for leaving the orbit of U.S. control. Since the Islamic Revolution in 1979, when the Shah was removed, Iran, unlike, say, Saudi Arabia, acts independently and thus compromises U.S. power in two ways: i) Defiance of U.S. dictates affects the U.S.’s attainment of goals linked to Iran; and, ii) Defiance of U.S. dictates establishes a “bad” example for other countries that may wish to pursue an independent course. The Shah could commit any number of abuses—widespread torture, for example—yet his loyalty to the U.S. exempted him from American condemnation—yet not from the condemnation of the bulk of Iranians who brought him down.

The following quiz is an attempt to introduce more balance into the mainstream discussion of Iran.

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Posted in Imperialism, Iran, Media. Tags: . 1 Comment »

UK Military Test Flying Israeli Drone Over Wales

Before the ash of doom cleared the flight schedules the ‘Watchkeeper‘ drone was successfully test flown on Wedenesday over Welsh skies (ht2 Mike)-

The UK tentacle of French arms giant Thales is delighted today to announce that its new “Watchkeeper” drone aircraft for the British Army has made its first flight in UK airspace. The machine first flew in 2008, above Israel, where the Hermes 450 it is based on is made.

The 20-minute Watchkeeper flight took place yesterday at the new ParcAberporth drone-drome in Wales, operated by controversial MoD selloff bonanza firm Qinetiq, which it is hoped will become a huge economic boon for Wales as the UK robocraft business booms in future. For now though, the main job it has is testing Watchkeeper.

The Watchkeeper itself is a modification of the Hermes 450 craft from Elbit of Israel, which the British Army is already using in Afghanistan under a lease deal with Elbit and Thales. Watchkeeper is superior to a basic Hermes 450, however, as it carries a ground-moving-target-indicator radar (developed with the help of Thales’ French operations) in addition to its electro-optical spyeye package.

The plan is for the British Watchkeepers and their engines to be made (or assembled, anyway) in Blighty. The aircraft will be put together at a company in Leicester called U-TacS, 51 per cent owned by Elbit – thus, Israeli-controlled. The UK engine-making factory will be fully Israeli-owned.

Apart from Thales’ I-MASTER Franco-UK radar, various other European components will replace the ones used by Israel in the Hermes 450. This process is described by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and Thales as essentially endowing Britain with a new unmanned-aircraft manufacturing base boasting 2000+ well-paid, skilled British jobs. This is the main reason why it is taking years and costing hundreds of millions to field a fairly ordinary radar+EO surveillance aircraft.

So I guess there’s still a ways to go on BDS where the MOD are involved…(it’s almost as if the military and the UK government are not at the forefront of human rights, quick someone call the Decents and alert their superior moral senses, the wars in Iraq & Afghanistan may possibly not be about building creches). The base for this testing is the UAV centre at ParcAberporth (& Google map). Of course the skilled jobs are trumpeted and with little choice the fact it is making a living out of death does not get a look in, you can’t pay a mortgage with good intentions, thus capitalism marches on with its evil flying robots of death. Protests in 2004 against the site of course fell on deaf ears when corporate profit and political influence peddling in the war-on-terro era trumps all notions of…well morality-

“We are very unhappy at the proposal and we know many local people are also concerned about it,” said Rod Stallard, vice-chairman of CND Cymru yesterday. “It’s been stated by the US Navy that this type of aircraft will have an armed offence capability by 2015. We don’t think Wales should be used as the site for producing such an offensive weapon. To have public money pumped into something like this is ridiculous. We should be supporting local businesses, not giving public money to multi-national companies to produce killing machines. It’s not for rural Wales, or for anywhere else.”

Local resident Keith Haworth said there were a number of questions about the project that needed to be answered.

He added, “Wales may want to be seen as the new Celtic Tiger, but is investment in remote-controlled weapons delivery technology the face a peace-orientated nation wishes to present to the world?”

ParcAberporth was created under the auspice of the legendarily corrupt patronage machine/quango the Welsh Development Agency  which is now simply the Welsh Assembly Government’s Department of Economy and Transport and the privatised Qinetiq, which was sold off cheap to the Empire’s corporate war machine. Rod Stallard had it right ‘To have public money pumped into something like this is ridiculous. We should be supporting local businesses, not giving public money to multi-national companies to produce killing machines.’ Thankfully we have an election now where we can vote and change all that… oh I am funny.

No Signal

Oddly the Mexican government cutting off 24 million mobile phones has failed to fire the civil liberty neurons of those US liberty lovers who quake with outrage every time Hugo Chávez (or sometimes Morales but they aren’t that well informed so mostly they stick with a name they know- Brand Chávez) launches bellicose rhetoric back at the Empire. What must it mean?

DN:- LAURA CARLSEN: Well, in March of 2005, NAFTA was extended into the Security and Prosperity Partnership, and this was an unprecedented move for a trade agreement to go into the security area, but it’s something that the Bush administration had been wanting to do for a long time. Essentially, the idea was to push the borders out of the United States and create a North American security perimeter that would include Canada and Mexico. In this way, the Bush government, what it sought to do was to apply the radical national security doctrine to Mexican territory as well. This is a big problem for Mexico, because it not only violates national sovereignty, but it also imposes on Mexico the security priorities of the United States government at a time when those are very belligerent and aggressive priorities throughout the world.

In the case of Plan Mexico, it’s a perfect example of the result of those policies. Essentially, it’s very important what Avi says, that it’s not just a counter-narcotics program, it’s a regional cooperation security initiative that includes counter-narcotics, counterterrorism and border security. So it lumps these together and basically gets a greater military presence for the United States within Mexico, not actual troops, but in terms of its intervention in the Mexican national security apparatus, and imposes the agenda of the United States government on that country.

AVI LEWIS: [inaudible] Sorry, just to jump in. There’s a fellow named Thomas Shannon, who’s a senior State Department official—

SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: Avi Lewis.

AVI LEWIS: A senior State Department official named Thomas Shannon, who’s deeply involved in the Security and Prosperity Partnership, I think kind of let the cat out of the bag in a speech this past spring, when he was talking about the SPP and North America as a shared economic space, which is the current lingo for this worldview. And he said explicitly, “What we’re doing, in some way, in a certain respect, is armoring NAFTA.” And I think when you look at the intersection of the economic agenda, the cover of the war on drugs, the immigration and border hysteria underneath it, Plan Mexico represents exactly that, the armoring of NAFTA. And, of course, it’s not talked about in those ways when it’s approved by Congress, when Democrats and Republicans reach across the aisle to support it.

Posted in Imperialism. Tags: . 6 Comments »

Kissinger Shits In The Woods

Otto is rightly not surprised by-

As secretary of state, Henry Kissinger canceled a U.S. warning against carrying out international political assassinations that was to have gone to Chile and two neighboring nations just days before a former ambassador was killed by Chilean agents on Washington’s Embassy Row in 1976, a newly released State Department cable shows.

A Tiny Revolution has the pictorial, Jeff Kaye has background if you need it, but Python’s got the song-

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Not A Mistake An Example

Vodpod videos no longer available.
Via Raed in the Middle: WikiLeaks Video: Exception or Example?

Laura Flanders with- Rick Rowley of Big Noise Films, who was in Iraq and visited the scene of the shootings just the day after they happened, and senior fellow at Peace Action, Raed Jarrar.

Rowley (there a day afterwards) recounts that a survivor of the Apache attack died when troops ran over him virtually cutting him in half and both make the point this is not an aberration in spite of ROE but because of them. Also see Democracy Now-

these residents came and told me that the man who they drove over was alive, that he had crawled out of the van that had been shot to pieces and that he was still alive when the Americans drove over him and cut him in half, basically, with a Bradley or tank or whatever armored vehicle they were driving in.

Not breaking the rules but following them, thus all the counter spin is to hide the reality and conduct of the war. Also Glenn Greenwald on this and Obama’s assassination program and Chris Floyd- The Accomodationists: Memo to Liberals on the White House Death Warrants.

Posted in Imperialism, Miscellaneous, War on Terror Scam. Tags: , . Comments Off on Not A Mistake An Example

Jim Lobe On Drone Legality

(IPS) – While welcoming an initial effort by the administration of President Barack Obama to offer a legal justification for drone strikes to kill suspected terrorists overseas, human rights groups say critical questions remain unanswered.

In an address to an international law group last week, State Department Legal Adviser Harold Koh insisted that such operations were being conducted in full compliance with international law.

“The U.S. is in armed conflict with al Qaeda as well as the Taliban and associated forces in response to the horrific acts of 9/11 and may use force consistent with its right to self-defence under international law,” he said. “…(I)ndividuals who are part of such armed groups are belligerents and, therefore, lawful targets under international law.”

Moreover, he went on, “U.S. targeting practices, including lethal operations conducted with the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, comply with all applicable law, including the laws of war,” which require limiting attacks to military objectives and that the damage caused to civilians by those attacks would not be excessive.

While right-wing commentators expressed satisfaction with Koh’s evocation of the “right to self-defence” – the same justification used by President George W. Bush – human rights groups were circumspect.

“We are encouraged that the administration has taken the legal surrounding drone strikes seriously,” said Jonathan Manes of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). “While this was an important and positive first step, a number of controversial questions were left unanswered.”

“We still don’t know what criteria the government uses to determine that a civilian is acting like a fighter, and can therefore be killed, and… whether there are any geographical limits on where drone strikes can be used to target and kill individuals,” he told IPS.

“He didn’t really say anything that we took issue with,” said Tom Malinowski, the Washington director of Human Rights Watch (HRW), who also complained about the lack of details.

“But it still leaves unanswered the question of how far the war paradigm he’s talking about extends. Will it extend beyond, say, ungoverned areas of Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen? Because you don’t want to leave a legal theory out there that could be exploited by a country like Russia or China to knock off its political enemies on the streets of a foreign city,” he added.

MORE

Hmmm….while we have concerns about the Death Star we are pleased with Governor Obama’s efforts (so much more charming than that awful Governor Dubya Tarkin) to address the difficult legal issues regarding his blowing up planets program… Interestingly Amnesty International, the only non US founded organisation, is the most critical, it’s a heady brew that imperialism-

Tom Parker of Amnesty International was more scathing about Koh’s position, suggesting that it was one more concession – along with indefinite detention and special military tribunals for suspected terrorists – to the framework created by Bush’s “global war on terror”.

“The big issue is where the war is and whether it’s a war, and we couldn’t disagree more strongly as to the tenor of Koh’s comments,” he said. “It goes back to the idea of an unbounded global war on terror where terror is hardly defined at all.”

Obama Admin Repeats Bush War Rhetoric To Justify Drone Assassinations

(AFP) – The US government for the first time has offered a legal justification of its drone strikes against Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants, citing the right to “self-defense” under international law. The CIA attacks by unmanned aircraft in Pakistan, Somalia and elsewhere have sharply increased under President Barack Obama’s administration but have remained shrouded in secrecy, with some human rights groups charging the bombing raids amount to illegal assassinations. Broaching a subject that has been off-limits for official comment, State Department legal advisor Harold Koh laid out the legal argument for the strikes in a speech late Thursday, referring to “targeting” of Al-Qaeda and Taliban figures without mentioning Pakistan or where the raids are carried out.

The United States was in “an armed conflict” with Al-Qaeda, the Taliban and its affiliates as a result of the September 11 attacks, Koh said, “and may use force consistent with its inherent right to self-defense under international law. With respect to the subject of targeting, which has been much commented upon in the media and international legal circles, there are obviously limits to what I can say publicly,” he told a conference of the American Society of International Law. What I can say is that it is the considered view of this administration — and it has certainly been my experience during my time as legal adviser — that US targeting practices, including lethal operations conducted with the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, comply with all applicable law, including the laws of war.”

The CIA would not comment on the speech, posted on the State Department website, but told AFP: “The Agency?s counterterrorism operations are conducted in strict accord with the law.” Rights activists and some legal experts charge the drone strikes in Pakistan and other countries, outside of a traditional battlefield, amount to extrajudicial executions that violate both international and US law.

Koh, a fierce critic of former president George W. Bush’s policies before he took his post, disagreed — saying a US ban on government sanctioned assassinations did not apply. Under US law, “the use of lawful weapons systems — consistent with the applicable laws of war — for precision targeting of specific high-level belligerent leaders when acting in self-defense or during an armed conflict is not unlawful, and hence does not constitute ‘assassination,'” he said. He also argued that the US government was not obliged to offer legal rights to the militant figures targeted in the strikes as the United States was at war and acting in self-defense.

Also, American Society of International Law Press release. Yes the only empire on Earth, that spends more than all other nations together on its military, with approximately 900 military facilities in 46 countries and territories (the unofficial figure is far greater)…is acting in self defence. Koh in 2002-

Still, some national security lawyers said the practice of drawing up lists of people who are subject to lethal force might blur the lines drawn by government’s ban on assassinations. That prohibition was first ordered by President Gerald Ford, and in the view of some lawyers, it applies not only to foreign leaders but to civilians. (American officials have said in the past that Saddam Hussein would be a legitimate target in a war, as he is a military commander as well as Iraq’s president.)

“The inevitable complication of a politically declared but legally undeclared war is the blurring of the distinction between enemy combatants and other nonstate actors,” said Harold Hongju Koh, a professor of international law at Yale University and a former State Department official in President Bill Clinton’s administration. “The question is, what factual showing will demonstrate that they had warlike intentions against us and who sees that evidence before any action is taken?”

He’s a great lawyer, says whatever the guy paying him wants.

In Speaking, To Listen

Or- Too Long for Twitter again. So to this absolute must read, and I mean that, you must read it, there will be a written test and all those failing will be barred from the interwebs for a week! Yes, I have that power… A progressive left blog from Pakistan who say this about themselves-

We call for a Pakistan grounded in principles of justice and fairness which includes a commitment to federalism and respect for the rights of provinces, and of minorities as equal citizens of the state. This requires that there be no discrimination on the basis of sex/gender, class, province/ethnicity, religion/sect, or sexual orientation. This is only possible if and when there is a clear separation between religion and state, when there are strong independent democratic institutions such as the judiciary and media , when the army’s role is confined to defence and when it is under the complete control of a civilian government which truly represents the people of Pakistan, and when there is a genuine effort to improve people’s quality of life through the provision of universal adult literacy, universal healthcare, and people-centered development.

Writes on the Sahgal/Amnesty affair, an excerpt but again, this is a must read!-

The larger issue, however, is this: why do our so-called allies constantly demand that we articulate our disavowal of the Taliban? Do they perhaps believe that in some deep dark religious corner of our lefty Pakistani hearts, we nurture a secret love for the ruthless brutish bearded circus called the Taliban?  Why are we being constantly asked to prove our bona fides as secularists and as humanists (in the sense that we believe in the dignity of *all* humanity)?  And that too by those who appear to have little qualms about retracting dignity from a man whose words and appearance unsettle us but who has done nothing – in terms of his actions – but run a girls’ school in Afghanistan and, now, defend the rights of precisely those that the American empire has reduced to ‘bare life.’ [1]  Does the problem lie in the fact that he “has championed the rights of jailed Al-Qaeda members and hate preachers…” as the Sunday Times puts it? But isn’t the selective granting of rights precisely what the Left is critical of in general?  Or is it that he stated in his memoirs that the Taliban were “better than anything Afghanistan has had in the past twenty-five years.” Yes, these views are abhorrent, but by no means unique. I heard much the same thing from the Afghans I met when I traveled to the Afghanistan-Pakistan border town of Chaman (in Balochistan) over a month ago.  These were Afghans who all hated the Taliban now (among them were ex-Taliban fighters).  To them, the Taliban had seemed like an answer to the corruption, chaos and random murders that had afflicted Afghanistan for decades when they first rose to power. They left when they realized that this was not the case or that the price they were being asked to pay was too high.

MORE

It’s ok, I’ll wait until you’ve clicked over and read it all, tum ti tum, doobie doo, ooh is that a cobweb in that corner….hmmm…mmmm…mmmm, um chocolate croissant…mm…hmuph….mm, ggr…. slurp, crumbs….nice glass of water…ahhh. Ok good, excellent wasn’t it? Now in what you might call related affairs-

Daily Beast Female Elites Denounce Global Human Rights Violations While Ignoring U.S. Crimes- Promising solutions for international women’s rights problems, the Daily Beast’s ‘Women in the World’ conference ended up supporting the status quo for US foreign policy.

Eikenberry was not the only spouse of a major player in current U.S. military misadventures to speak at the conference. “Morning Joe” host Mike Brezenski interviewed Cherie Blair, “Founder of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women,” who also happens to be married to former Prime Minister Tony Blair, our great ally in invading Iraq on false pretenses. (Another infamous Iraq war cheerleader, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, was a featured lunchtime speaker.)

Taken as a whole, the Women in the World conference was itself, ironically, a microcosm of the systemic reasons women are in dire straights across the globe. Just as its most high-profile featured speakers have been inextricably linked to war crimes and deadly foreign policy, its corporate sponsors have been inextricably linked to the suffering of women — from the victimization of women in oil-rich nations (sponsored by Exxon), predatory lenders and families losing their homes (sponsored by Bank of America) and the ever-widening gap between rich and poor, even as corporate bonuses are doled out (sponsored by Goldman Sachs). The aggressively pro-market message of much of the weekend — empowering women through entrepreneurship — made it clear that the “solutions” for women in the world are more neo-liberal economic policies and unchallenged U.S. military dominance.

Another good read that requires thinking about the entitlements and privileges of the Anglosphere elite (ht’s2 Earwicga who also is now contributing to Pickled Politics). A shiny world view that is helped by ignoring the domestic abuses-

A group of detainees who claim they suffered ‘inhumane and degrading treatment’ while at Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre are suing the Home Office. The 11 women have employed Leigh Day & Co solicitors to seek damages from the government and Serco, the private security company which runs the Clapham detention centre. The women, who are still detained and are on hunger strike, allege that their rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and their rights not to be tortured, suffer inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment were all breached by employees of Serco.

Medialens continues the exposure of the execution of men, women & child civilians by NATO forces. Another role of media is to not report the successes of citizen direct action against the war machinery, lest the masses get ideas to do take our responsibility for war crimes (our tax money, our govts, our families feeding the recruiters targets) and reject it with activism-

Three activists from Swords into Ploughshares have been found NOT GUILTY of all charges laid against them in a New Zealand court for their action breaking into the Waihopai spybase in Blenheim in April 2008, and deflating one of the two domes covering the satellite dishes which capture intelligence data.

The jury heard that the Waihopai Echelon spy base is New Zealand’s largest contribution to the US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq. The ongoing war has resulted in horrific war crimes, including more than one million dead Iraqi civilians, torture, and permanent poisoning of parts of Iraq by the use of depleted uranium munitions.

The jury also heard evidence from a former British Echelon intelligence analyst, Katherine Gunn. She blew the whistle on secret Echelon spying operations when she was instructed by the US National Security Agency to spy on United Nations Security Council members leading up to the US invasion in 2003.

“Evidence presented in the court confirmed that the ongoing war in Iraq is illegal, and causing massive human suffering”, said Adrian. “As an outcome of this trial, we hope that New Zealanders will insist on an enquiry into the activities of the spy base and its links to US-led illegal wars”.

Father Peter, Sam and Adrian expressed gratitude for all the support they have received from family, friends and the New Zealand public.

Anniversaries – Happy St. Pat’s especially to all LGBTQ people (I’d like to think I’m saucy enough to figure in there somewhere), fuck bigots who make parades their private reich. Bad anniversaries- 1000 Days of the siege of Gaza, and a story about the difficulties and resourcefulness needed to get a laptop into Gaza. Andy Worthington on Vindictive judge gives Muslims prison sentences for Gaza protest.

Also the Swiss Banks, y’know those secretive Nazi moolah hiding, global tax evading troughs of evil are so sure of banks supremacy (and to be honest, they are probably right on that) they propose a global flat tax at rates they will set! Also at the excellent Richard Murphy’s blog- How Lehman fiddled the books and a great new acronym-

Prem Sikka– Accountants disarm journalists, critics, regulators and the general public by claiming that the accounts are fairly presented in accordance with some generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP), but the Lehman report shows that they are based in carefully rejigged accounting practices (CRAP).

And finally this great meme, the theme for your blog, as I am also slowly getting the stuff together for Ten Percent to go to its own hosts and thus be free of accidental or otherwise WordPress bans this could be an ongoing process to find the definitive theme together with votes and prizes possibly. More on that soon…

Christianists & Empire

This passed me by at the time but his recent comments set me wondering and indeed, the current Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland Matt Baggott is a born again christian and chairman of the christian police officers association and vice president of the National Association of Police Chaplains, hmmm.

He has a fondness for the Old Testament and recently wrote an article for Britain’s Christian Police Association (CPA) urging officers to become followers of the Prophet Malachi so “our prayers, attitudes and actions will bring many to the reality and hope of the cross”.

He is president of the CPA, an evangelical Protestant group that believes “the Bible is the inspired Word of God without error and is the only complete authority on matters of faith and doctrine”. In public, however, he is more given to management speak than biblical quotations.

He was born in 1959 in an affluent Christian family and attended a public school in Croydon; Axcell thinks it was Trinity School, a Christian foundation with high academic standards.

But

Bernard Greaves, a gay-rights activist and member of Leicester Police Authority, is equally positive. “I have a good, effective relationship. He knows I am gay and there is never any problem,” he says. “The police have an excellent hate crimes unit which is very supportive of the lesbian, gay and bisexual community.”

Leicester is the most ethnically diverse city in the UK and is expected to have a non-white majority by 2011. Baggott and his force seem popular in all parts of the community. Hanif Aqbany, a Labour councillor, said: “We are delighted with the local police. They are approachable and accessible.”

He has been seen to be proactive in publicly apologising for racism, sexism & skiving when exposed by Dispatches. However-

He was staff officer to Sir Paul Condon, then the Met commissioner, for 18 months. As a chief superintendent, he was given the sensitive job of heading the team assisting the public inquiry into the force’s botched investigation of the murder of Stephen Lawrence, the black teenager stabbed to death in 1993.

The evidence against the Met was damning; it was found guilty of “institutional racism” and corruptly covering up mistakes. Baggott made one of his few PR mistakes when he said the fact that the killers shouted racist abuse did not prove the killing was racially motivated.

Although the gang that murdered Stephen is not disputed to have called out ‘What, what, n*gger?’, police claimed at various points during the inquiry that the attack on Stephen was not racist. CS Matt Baggott (who heads the police team at the inquiry) stated, contradicting police guidelines, ‘Words are not sufficient evidence of racial motivation.’

His reported charm and professionalism seem to have served him well and his affluent and christian background have cemented his establishment credentials rather than created an iconoclast. And after the mess of the Lawrence case he has at least known enough to at appear more concerned with ‘canteen culture’. Still, is having another religious person (and predictably of prostestant extraction) in the mix the wisest idea?

Posted in Capitalism, Imperialism. Tags: . Comments Off on Christianists & Empire

Economic Warfare Against Iran Intensifies

FT.com:- The world’s largest oil traders have quietly stopped supplying petrol to Iran in a clear sign that the threat of sanctions and Washington’s behind-the-scenes efforts to convince companies not to sell to Tehran are paying off. However, the decision by Vitol, Glencore and Trafigura is unlikely to cut Tehran off completely from the global petrol market as traders said Iran’s long-standing suppliers were being replaced by small Dubai-based and Chinese companies. Although Iran is one of the world’s biggest oil producers, its refineries are dilapidated and it suffers from runaway petrol demand because of generous subsidies.

Energy executives said Vitol, Glencore and Trafigura, which have hitherto sold Iran half of its petrol imports of 130,000 barrels a day, stopped supplying Tehran because of mounting political risk. “The political and public relations problems more than outweigh the business rewards,” said one executive. The sale of petrol to Iran by non-US companies is legal as fuel imports have yet to be included in sanctions against the country. The companies declined to comment.

Vitol’s decision is particularly important as the company is by far the world’s largest oil trader. One executive familiar with Iran’s trade said “Vitol consciously decided not to participate in Iran’s tenders” at the start of the year. Trafigura, the Switzerland-based oil and metals trader, stopped selling to Iran about three months ago, an industry executive said. “They have concluded that there’s too much political and financial risk,” the executive said. Glencore stopped supply in late 2009, breaking a relationship with Iran of more than three decades.

Oil groups such as Total of France, Lukoil of Russia, Petronas of Malaysia and Royal Dutch Shell also sold petrol to Iran last year. Chinese oil traders, including the secretive ZhenHua Oil, began supplying fuel to Iran in 2009 and now provide up to a third of its imports.

This happened even as media trumpeted that over the last decade not every corporation on Earth had done what war pimps in Washington & the Knesset wanted and may even be interested in profit, shock horror!!! It is also worrying that the propaganda has worked- 71 percent of Americans believe that Iran currently has nuclear weapons. Shirin Ebadi a Nobel Laureate like Mr. Obama has said-

FT.com:- The United Nations should focus on pressing the Tehran regime to restore democracy and human rights rather than imposing economic sanctions on Iran for its nuclear programme, says Shirin Ebadi, the Iranian opposition activist.“A military attack or economic sanctions would be to the detriment of the people of Iran,” she said, adding that the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad had ways to circumvent further economic measures and their unintended impact might be to rally people behind the regime.

She called, however, for action against western companies that she said were supporting actively the censorship and repression of the opposition movement…{she} named Nokia-Siemens and France’s Eutelsat as among a number of companies she said were helping the regime.

But instead they stop fuel, used for transport, energy and heat, it will increase prices for all goods, create a greater need for independent nuclear power (which is their right and the weapons issue is the means to deny this civil program), while continuing to create the conditions (poverty, anger) that will provoke reactionary repression which can be reported by media and spun by governments into the need for military action on humanitarian grounds to conflate with the nuclear issue ie. WMD panic!!!!!™ Power wearing the humane mask that people fall for still. Trita Parsi-

Under these circumstances, the embattled Iranian government is unable to set a new course for its foreign policy. In a state of paralysis, Iran’s behavior is primarily driven by two forces: bureaucratic inertia and a willingness to take only those decisions that are deemed low-risk within Iran’s internal political context. That does not include compromise with Washington and the International Atomic Energy Agency on the nuclear issue. From the Iran-Contra scandal onwards, Iran’s history is ripe with examples of Iranian politicians losing their careers after trying to create an opening to the U.S. Iran’s opposing political factions fear that rivals would reap the political benefits of an end to the U.S.-Iran enmity. From the standpoint of those in the regime, the low-risk course is to respond to pressure by opting for confrontation and escalation. Iran’s hard-liners are more comfortable and astute at handling an easily defined threat such as a combative Bush than they are an elusive and indefinable Obama.

None of this bodes well for the U.S. Ratcheting up indiscriminate sanctions will likely close the window for diplomacy, leaving Obama in the same position as Bush placed himself. But Tehran’s tendency toward confrontation might lead to the situation spiraling out of control. Military confrontation, which no one in the Obama Administration favors, may become unavoidable.

I’d quibble that no one in the Obama administration wants to attack, but as he concludes, resistance, the ‘Green movement’ and progressives in Iran would be worst served by the course currently pursued by belligerents.

Out Of Sight

Current Google trends snapshot-

While Al Maliki is being spun as a cautious winner by the US & UK mainstream, the secular nationalist bloc Al-Iraqiya is showing some legs, although lots of claims of corruption, bans, terrorism and an occupation don’t help (not to mention ongoing birth defects caused by the invaders). But as the above image shows, the people of the nation who drove us into this war and occupation remain relatively uninterested in the world around them, imperialism might fleetingly be glimpsed in relation to a marketing event dressed as film awards ceremony (of which many seem unsure of the date & time it takes place) and that’s about it.

PS. Oops I tell a lie, Iraq Election is  No. 2 in US topics, though not searches, Oscars of course is number 1.

Surging On

(AFP) – The United States plans a major offensive this year in the Taliban bastion of Kandahar in southern Afghanistan, a senior official said Friday, calling a hard-fought ongoing operation a mere prelude. The remarks were the latest sign that President Barack Obama’s administration plans to step up the fight against the Taliban as part of its strategy of pouring thousands more troops into Afghanistan.

PS.

Kabul – The United Nations said Wednesday that 346 children were killed in Afghanistan last year, more than half of them by NATO forces, mostly in airstrikes. “In 2009, 346 children were killed,” Radhika Coomaraswamy, the special representative of the UN secretary general for children and armed conflict, said in Kabul after a seven-day visit the country. She said 131 children were killed in airstrikes, while 22 were killed in nighttime raids by international special forces. Taliban militants were responsible for the deaths of 128 children last year, with seven of the children used by militants as suicide bombers, she said. In 38 cases, it was not possible to determine who had killed the children. More than 2,400 civilians were killed last year, the deadliest for Afghan civilians since the fall of the Taliban regime in late 2001, according to the UN.

Coomaraswamy said she met with NATO commander in Afghanistan US General Stanley McChrystal, who assured her that troops “will work with the UN to ensure better protection for children.” But she noted that “recent events in the past months are cause of concern.” About 50 civilians have been killed since the NATO forces began their biggest-ever operation in the southern province of Helmand nearly two weeks ago. At least 27 of the casualties were caused by a NATO airstrike, and 12 others were killed by NATO rockets. McChrystal said he has put protecting civilians at centre of his war strategy and has ordered the 113,000 international troops to limit the use of airstrikes. Attacks by Taliban on schools reached their highest level in 2009, with more than 600 incidents recorded, Coomaraswamy said.

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The Faces Change, Imperial Foreign Policy Remains The Same- Obama’s War Pimps

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Vice President Joe Biden said on Sunday the United States expects to gain China’s support for imposing sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program.

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has told an international conference that Iran has left the world little choice but to take harsher action to contain its nuclear program. Clinton told the US-Islamic World Forum in Doha, Qatar that Iran has not lived up to its nuclear obligations.

See Simon Jenkins Imposing idiot sanctions on Iran is a direct route to war and below Alistair Crooke (former spook so be advised) in Asia Times Online assessing the terrain wrote in December-

But if sanctions on Iran are widely acknowledged – at least in private within the US administration – as destined to fail, this must be provoking some interesting self-questioning within the White House: The US is in the process now of withdrawal from Iraq, it is looking for the exit in Afghanistan and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is getting messier. None of these events seems likely to become particularly glorious episodes for the administration.

It is not hard to imagine White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel and White House senior adviser David Axelrod asking themselves, “why the president should want to risk another perceived failure” – as sanctions on Iran surely will be. “Why”, they may ask, “do sanctions and open ourselves to persistent Republican jeering at their inevitable failure and then ultimately force us to have to ask … well, what do we do next, Mr President”?

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Falklands, Malvinas, Oil

That ol’ timey empire dies hard, then oil arrives to reinvigorate the corpse, it’s Carbon Zombie Imperialism!

It does not look like much: a jumble of pipes, containers and drilling equipment sitting on a windswept jetty at Port Stanley. The hardware, however, signals an imminent search for oil and gas that could turn the Falkland Islanders into south Atlantic oil barons, a prospect that has already triggered a dispute between Britain and Argentina.

A rig, the Ocean Guardian, is due to arrive by mid-February and will almost immediately begin drilling for hydrocarbon deposits 100 miles north of the archipelago. Geological surveys suggest there could be up to 60bn barrels beneath the seabed around the British territory, a bonanza that would transform islands famed for sheep, fish and remoteness.

“The rig won’t come into sight of Port Stanley unfortunately, it’ll be out too far,” said Phyll Rendell, the islands’ director of mineral resources. “But everyone knows it’s coming.” A British company, Desire Petroleum, has hired the rig to drill prospects in the North Falkland basin and will later lease it to three other British companies – Rockhopper, BHP Billiton and Falklands Oil and Gas – which also have exploration contracts. They will use the rig in rotation throughout 2010. It will be the first drilling in Falkland waters since Shell suspended exploration in 1998 after oil prices slumped to $12 a barrel.

“With the rise in oil prices and the worldwide search for new oil and gas services, it has now become more than commercially viable for this work to begin,” said Ben Romney, a Desire Petroleum spokesman. “We should know by the end of the year whether or not a major extraction programme will go ahead.”

Argentina is not waiting that long to voice its anger. It lost the 1982 war with Britain over the islands, which it calls the Islas Malvinas, but still claims sovereignty and terms British control an occupation.

“What they are doing is illegitimate,” said Jorge Taiana, the foreign minister. “It’s a violation of our sovereignty. We will do everything possible to defend and preserve our rights.”

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Enlightenment Values Except For Muslims

Five Muslim men who protested at a home-coming parade in Luton where soldiers were called murderers have been found guilty of making threats. The charges related to a march by The Royal Anglian Regiment through the town in March 2009. The five men, all from Luton, were convicted of using threatening, abusive or insulting words and behaviour likely to cause harassment and distress.

District Judge Carolyn Mellanby said: “I have no doubt it is abusive and insulting to tell soldiers to ‘Go to hell’ – to call soldiers murderers, rapists and baby killers. “It is not just insulting to the soldiers but to the citizens of Luton who were out on the streets that day to honour and welcome soldiers home. Citizens of Luton are entitled to demonstrate their support for the troops without experiencing insults and abuse.” She went on: “The fact that they say they did not intend their remarks to be insulting does not amount to defence in law. They were fully aware that shocking phrases in such circumstances would inevitably cause distress.”

Defence lawyers had argued the right to freedom of speech was at stake. Earlier in the day Jubair Ahmed’s lawyer used philosopher Voltaire’s views on freedom of speech to defend him. In her closing speech for his defence Sonal Dashani said: “Voltaire said ‘I disagree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it.’

“That was in the 18th Century. Things have moved on since then, though perhaps not as quickly as one might have liked. If you believe in freedom of speech you have to accept that some things will be said that you will like and some things will be said that you will not like.”

Angry scenes broke out during the parade for the 2nd Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment, known as The Poachers. Lawyers defending the men said their clients discussed their plans to protest with police beforehand, had agreed to a time and a place to do so with them, had complied with police throughout and officers had not objected at the time to their slogans.

They were dumb things to shout out (although arguable factually correct, they could not know if the specific soldiers had engaged in such acts but the coaltion forces have committed rape, murder and killed babies, welcome to the realities of war oh genteel Britons). ‘Troops home now, Stop the war’- would have been a better angle, however one thing the war loving commentariat love to do is wank on endlessly about the values of Teh Enlightenment and how the Islamo-caliphate/fascists or whatever (Daleks!?!?) are out to destroy such values. But here these values have been tested and it turns out the establishment has no respect for them, (unless one accepts these values are racially privileged, which is really not a great value at all) try and act surprised. Fig leaf bullshit to add to the weak justifications for murdering people in foreign lands, bingo?!?!! Where were the defenders of free speech when the case was not so popular, the issues a bit sticky and the defendants Muslims who rudely opposed the wars…many of the Teh Enlightenment fanboys support…ok answered it myself there. If these values are so easily discarded then they clearly did not really understand their implications or hold them sincerely. This is not a Fred Phelps level of idiocy, this was a jingoistic homecoming parade designed to increase support for the government’s wars through forcing peer pressure (again welcome to the reality of the function of military parades on genteel imperialists), that some publicly and offensively -to some- dissented should be something we accept. That we instead criminalised it tells the profound truth of wars of choice, they close down the societies that launch them, they push them rightwards into authoritarianism and if we don’t defend the difficult unpopular cases it will be the less controversial ones next.

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